About Us

The interdisciplinary field of children’s studies was founded at Brooklyn College in fall 1991. Its aim was to promote a unified approach to the study of children and youth across the disciplines in the arts, humanities, natural and social sciences, medicine, and law.

This new concept of “children’s studies,” with its emphasis on an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach of study to the generational cohort of children from birth to 18 years of age, was introduced and coined in contradistinction to the Child Study Movement initiated by Stanley Hall at the turn of the 20th century with its focus on child psychology and development. From its beginnings, the field of children’s studies made the ontological claim that children must be viewed in their fullness as human beings, as a generational and social class in all their civil, political, social, economic, and cultural dimensions. From 1992 forward the human rights of children represented a major framework for the new and interdisciplinary field of children’s studies. After 1991, other academic institutions established children’s studies programs. In 2011, the title of the Children’s Studies Program at Brooklyn College was officially changed to the Children and Youth Studies Program.

In a 1998 article published in The New York Times, Edward Rothstein wrote, “Gertrud Lenzer founded a pioneering program in children studies applying anthropology, psychology, literature and history to the study of children and adolescence … other schools have begun similar programs.” In the Sunday Reader of The Dallas Morning News in an article titled “Lenzer Champions Growing Field of Children’s Studies,” Ira J. Hadnot writes that Lenzer created a novel program that is being copied across the country. In a 2001 article in the Lion and the Unicorn (pdf), Lenzer provides a short history of children’s studies.

Earlier in 1991, Brooklyn College was also the academic institution that initiated the establishment of the “Sociology of Children” as a new field and section within the American Sociological Association. Before founding the interdisciplinary field of children’s studies with colleagues from different disciplines in fall 1991, Gertrud Lenzer set out to establish the “Sociology of Children.” (pdf) To this end, she wrote an article in August 1991 titled “Is There Sufficient Interest to Establish a Sociology of Children?” in the ASA journal Footnotes. With the help from many colleagues across the United States and Europe, the new ASA Sociology of Children section was officially established in 1992.


Gertrud Lenzer, Director
Children and Youth Studies/Sociology

Gail B. Gurland
Speech Communication Arts and Sciences

Louise Hainline

Margaret King

Carol Korn-Bursztyn

Regine Latortue
Africana Studies

Betty Wolder Levin
Health and Nutrition Sciences

Roni L. Natov

Maria Perez y Gonzalez
Puerto Rican and Latino Studies

All files are in pdf format, unless otherwise noted. Note that the Children and Youth Studies Program was formerly known as Children’s Studies.

Faculty and Staff

Founding Director

  • Gertrud Lenzer—Children and Youth Studies/Sociology

Full-time Faculty

  • Katherine Rose Hejtmanek—Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Children and Youth Studies Program; Director, Children and Youth Studies
  • Jeremy R. Porter—Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center
  • Madeline Fox—Assistant Professor, Children and Youth Studies, and Department of Sociology
  • Erika Niwa—Assistant Professor, Children and Youth Studies and Department of Psychology

Adjunct Faculty

Fall 2022

  • Jeanen Barrett
  • Parbatie Chitolie
  • Elise Goldberg
  • Jessica Gusberg
  • Travis Johnson
  • Kimberly Kerr
  • Kenton Kirby
  • Irma Kramer
  • Pascale Lebrun-Gay
  • Tyler McCormick
  • Russell Miller
  • Melissa Morgenlander
  • Kristen Muscarella
  • Sarah Nadeau
  • Hailey Nolasco
  • Natisha Romain
  • Angie Wassif

Program and Staff

Advisory Board

  • Michael A. Corriero, Esq.—Executive Director-Elect, Big Brothers, Big Sister of New York City, New York
  • Howard Davidson, Esq.—Director, American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law, Washington, D.C.
  • Simone Ek—Senior Adviser, U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Stockholm
  • Honorable Bryanne Hamill—New York County Family Court, New York
  • Frank M. Howell—Adjunct Professor of Sociology, Emory University, Professor Emeritus, Mississippi State University
  • Victor Karunan—Chief, Adolescent Development and Participation, Division of Policy and Practice, UNICEF Headquarters, New York
  • James Olney—Henry J. Voorhies Professor of English, Emeritus, Louisiana State University
  • Patricia Meyer Spacks—Edgar Shannon Professor of English, Emerita, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; Immediate Past President, American Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • Judith Tanur—Distinguished Teaching Professor, Emerita, Department of Sociology, State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • Edward Zigler—Sterling Professor of Psychology, Emeritus; Director, Emeritus, The Edward Zigler Yale Center, Child Development and Social Policy, Yale University

A Tribute to Our Founder: Gertrud Lenzer

Children and Youth Studies Program and the Children’s Studies Center for Research, Policy, and Public Service
Professor of Children’s Studies and Sociology
Ph.D. Program in Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
Founding Chair, Children and Youth Section, American Sociological Association

Gertrud Lenzer, founding director of the Children and Youth Studies Program (formerly known as Children's Studies) and the Children's Studies Center for Research, Policy and Public Service. (Photo credit: National Humanities Center, 2014)

Gertrud Lenzer, founding director of the Children and Youth Studies Program (formerly known as Children’s Studies) and the Children’s Studies Center for Research, Policy and Public Service. (Photo credit: National Humanities Center, 2014)

“We know very little about the inner life of children, about their desires, aspirations or fears and sorrows, the imaginative creation of their own world and how the world of adults appears to the child. Children are indeed confronted with the considerable power the adult world has over them. Children cannot represent themselves, unlike other powerless groups who have made their claims heard. For most of what we know about children has been created by adults—and as Orwell suggests—adults who in most instances have forgotten what it was like to be a child. And so it is: much of our most intimate knowledge of children and childhood has traditionally come from writers, poets and artists and not from scholars, educators and policy makers. Perhaps Children’s Studies can contribute to providing a voice to children and childhood which is commensurate with their reality and not exclusively a construction of adults.” —Gertrud Lenzer, “Children’s Studies: Beginning and Purposes,” The Lion and The Unicorn, October 2000

Gertrud Lenzer was born in 1935 in Ingolstadt, Germany. Growing up in Germany during World War II had a consuming effect on Lenzer’s world view throughout her lifetime. It sparked her interest to seek an understanding of childhood exposure to the effects of trauma, in all its various forms.

“Should it be surprising to have been a child of war and a child intensely interested with the powers available to a child in the democratic reconstruction of post W.W. II Germany while accepting as it were the historical responsibility and challenge to realize such responsibilities as an individual? It is for this reason that after years of working on the history of ideas and social policies aiming to restructure society, that I turned in the course of the last close to thirty years to the generation of children(from zero to 18 years of age) in all its complexities ranging from such foci as children and the war, children exposed to violence and abuse, childhoods that are marked for a life time by hunger and social inequalities.” —Education Update Online, March/April 2014

Lenzer earned her Doctor of Philosophy in sociology, philosophy, and journalism from the Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität München. She held prestigious positions, as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at New York University in 1962 and a research associate at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, in spring 1964. From 1964 to 1966, Lenzer was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies in American Studies in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. She spent 1972–73 as a visiting associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. She became a program evaluator for interdisciplinary research programs on issues on values and ethics in health care and as research associate at the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University from the mid-1970s until 1980. She held a Research Fellowship at the National Humanities Center (1980–81), and the Visiting Professorship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1981–82), among several other positions.

Lenzer credits Alfred von Martin as one of the most influential mentors in her lifework. He was “an academician from whom I learned to fearlessly pursue major ideas and projects. But more importantly, since he was an opponent to the Nazi regime whose books were burned and put on an index, I learned from him that the powers that must be confronted and their negative influence be met at every corner.” —Educational Update

Lenzer began her career at Brooklyn College in 1971.

“My major fields were the history of social and political thought and philosophy, and I was very interested in social policy developments nationally and internationally. In this connection, I wrote to Washington for a report by the Committee on Ways and Means of the US House of Representatives on Children in Poverty, May 22, 1985. In the following semester, I decided to give a seminar on ‘Children and Social Responsibility’ and discovered that we as sociologists had forgotten about an entire class of human beings, children, and so had the other social sciences. (Of course, we had socialization, and deviant behavior, and education and the family.) It was then when I told my friend, the chair of the department, that I would start the ‘Sociology of Children’ once our little son was somewhat older. And so, it happened one day in May 1991 that I had a discussion with Barbara Fields, an African American historian from Columbia University, about what was happening to minority children. I told her on the spot that I was going to start the Sociology of Children that very day.” —ASA Interview for 25th Anniversary of Children and Youth Section, ASA, Spring 2016

In 1991, as a full professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, she established the Sociology of Children Section of the American Sociological Association and the creation of a new interdisciplinary field which she called “children’s studies” She founded children’s studies at Brooklyn College with colleagues Gail B. Gurland (Speech Communication Arts and Sciences), Louise Hainline (Psychology), Margaret King (History), Carol Korn-Bursztyn (Education), Regine Latortue (Africana Studies), Betty Wolder Levin (Health and Nutrition Sciences), Roni L. Natov (English), and Maria Perez y Gonzalez (Puerto Rican and Latino Studies).

“In the mid-eighties, we had the fields of education and psychology which focused on children and especially child development. There were also the beginnings of the history of children and children’s literature. But by contrast, most of other academic fields did not have a focus on children.”

The Children and Youth Studies Program has evolved tremendously since its inception. Lenzer’s goals for the future were to enhance social justice for children and to end maltreatment of children from the foster care system or runaways, juvenile justice systems, and neglect by caregivers. The Bachelor of Arts degree in children’s studies, first offered at Brooklyn College in fall 2009, became the third-largest major in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Children’s studies degree programs can be found in institutions across the United States, Canada, Europe, and many other places around the world. These developments are associated with the incredible growth of child advocacy organizations—on local, country, regional, and international levels in recent history.

“Here as elsewhere, the most astonishing phenomenon was the hitherto unrecognized circumstance that young students are—as it were—’natural’ child advocates . . . And at the same time, these developments are associated with the incredible growth of child advocacy organizations—on local, country, regional, and international levels in recent history.

“In the course of recent years, violence against children in the home and institutions has become a major focus of my attention, work and advocacy. The goals for the future are to enhance social justice for children wherever possible and to end maltreatment of children in all forms ranging from abuse and neglect by caregivers, from the foster care systems and runaways (or often even throwaways) to a juvenile justice system which is often dysfunctional and rather than rehabilitating children leads to an increase in their criminalization. Last but not least, my energies will also be devoted to including violence against children in the form of poverty, extreme poverty and discrimination perpetrated by societies in which socio-economic, cultural and ethnic inequalities are preponderant.

“Perhaps my most important goal has to do with giving children a voice by way of bringing the insights from different disciplines to bear upon a better understanding of them and to participate in the formulation of legislation and social policies which are focused on freeing children from all forms of violence, set up solid foundations of protection for children and to promote the rights of children as human subjects.”

Brooklyn. All in.